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Out Of Ideas: All Over Neck Fret Buzz


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Hi y'all. I'm new here.

In a step towards educating myself into building and setting up guitars I assembled one from parts. I'm not in a position to do the woodwork as yet. The parts are Mighty Mite neck and body. Maple neck with ebony fretboard, pretty big frets and an ash body with a thin but very striking curly maple veneer. From a distance of more than three feet it's stunning!

Anyway, it's assembled now, but I have a problem: it's buzzing along the entire neck, at every string. Strings are new, .010 gauge. Bridge is good. Action is actually pretty high, over 2mm (.08") on the low E and 1.8 (.07) at the high E. Relief is setup to factory spec as in the "Guitar Player Repair Guide (pg30,31)": capo on 1, depress string on 17 and measure on 7th fret: .3 mm, .012". The buzz is very noticable, also through an amp, it impairs the ringing out of the strings. They sound dampened. I replaced the nut with an Earvana, there's no buzz on the open strings. depressing at the second fret shows only a slight gap at the first, so that should be OK.

I've tried loosening the neck more to more relief, I've tried setting it straight. Didn't help. So I set it back to slight relief since I believe that the strings need room to vibrate, no?

Frets are perfect. Along several straightedges there is only the relief that shows. I have a Stewmac fret rocker, that showed no high frets, even when I had it straight, no relief. Checking the buzz with an LED like this method: http://www.schrammguitars.com/buzz.html and it shows it's usually lighting up at two to three strings up from the depressed one. So it's just not making enough of an angle coming away from the depressed fret? Therefore it needs more relief? I can't think of anything that would otherwise remedy that. So, just now I turned down the tension on the neck even more, relief is now a 0.6mm, .022" and if I capo at 7 the g-string now the led shows contact at every fret up until the 19th.

Oh, and pickups are further away than fender specs. over 1/8".

Now I like a fairly, but not extreme low action. And I play the strings fairly hard. But I do that on all my guitars and they don't buzz. I have two more strats and a PRS-type that all play fine that way. This one plays hard already and still buzzes.

I'm out of ideas on this one.

Can anyone please shed some light on this? What could I be doing wrong?

And I read about techs and pro players (GPrepair guide, pg 30, halfway first colum, and in the table pg 31) that they "like" their necks dead straight with low action. Like they have the choice to do that or not! How the @*#$ do they do that? That's going against physics! I would love to have this neck straight with low action and no fret buzz! Sorry, I'm slightly frustrated here.

Edited by Hollander
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Hi y'all. I'm new here.

In a step towards educating myself into building and setting up guitars I assembled one from parts. I'm not in a position to do the woodwork as yet. The parts are Mighty Mite neck and body. Maple neck with ebony fretboard, pretty big frets and an ash body with a thin but very striking curly maple veneer. From a distance of more than three feet it's stunning!

Anyway, it's assembled now, but I have a problem: it's buzzing along the entire neck, at every string. Strings are new, .010 gauge. Bridge is good. Action is actually pretty high, over 2mm (.08") on the low E and 1.8 (.07) at the high E. Relief is setup to factory spec as in the "Guitar Player Repair Guide (pg30,31)": capo on 1, depress string on 17 and measure on 7th fret: .3 mm, .012". The buzz is very noticable, also through an amp, it impairs the ringing out of the strings. They sound dampened. I replaced the nut with an Earvana, there's no buzz on the open strings. depressing at the second fret shows only a slight gap at the first, so that should be OK.

I've tried loosening the neck more to more relief, I've tried setting it straight. Didn't help. So I set it back to slight relief since I believe that the strings need room to vibrate, no?

Frets are perfect. Along several straightedges there is only the relief that shows. I have a Stewmac fret rocker, that showed no high frets, even when I had it straight, no relief. Checking the buzz with an LED like this method: http://www.schrammguitars.com/buzz.html and it shows it's usually lighting up at two to three strings up from the depressed one. So it's just not making enough of an angle coming away from the depressed fret? Therefore it needs more relief? I can't think of anything that would otherwise remedy that. So, just now I turned down the tension on the neck even more, relief is now a 0.6mm, .022" and if I capo at 7 the g-string now the led shows contact at every fret up until the 19th.

Oh, and pickups are further away than fender specs. over 1/8".

Now I like a fairly, but not extreme low action. And I play the strings fairly hard. But I do that on all my guitars and they don't buzz. I have two more strats and a PRS-type that all play fine that way. This one plays hard already and still buzzes.

I'm out of ideas on this one.

Can anyone please shed some light on this? What could I be doing wrong?

And I read about techs and pro players (GPrepair guide, pg 30, halfway first colum, and in the table pg 31) that they "like" their necks dead straight with low action. Like they have the choice to do that or not! How the @*#$ do they do that? That's going against physics! I would love to have this neck straight with low action and no fret buzz! Sorry, I'm slightly frustrated here.

You need to dress the frets, plain and simple. A fret file does not lie. Low action and a relatively straight neck IS possible provided the frets are properly dressed.

Roman

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Did you retune when you de-tensioned the neck for more relief? The strings will all need tightening back to pitch. If they aren't they might buzz because the string tension is too low.

Basically it's simple physics. A string need space to vibrate, and it needs more space, the further you go from the fret being held down (up to halfway along the string to the bridge). Adding relief will get more space under the string on the nearby frets.

When you say "if I capo at 7 the g-string now the led shows contact at every fret up until the 19th." Do you mean without plucking the string? If so that seems very odd. I can't imagine achieving that without an almost dead flat neck in that region, and the bridge set to low at the same time.

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Thanks for all the replies!

Frets are perfect. Along several straightedges there is only the relief that shows. I have a Stewmac fret rocker, that showed no high frets, even when I had it straight, no relief. Checking the buzz with an LED like this method: http://www.schrammguitars.com/buzz.html and it shows it's usually lighting up at two to three strings up from the depressed one. So it's just not making enough of an angle coming away from the depressed fret? Therefore it needs more relief? I can't think of anything that would otherwise remedy that. So, just now I turned down the tension on the neck even more, relief is now a 0.6mm, .022" and if I capo at 7 the g-string now the led shows contact at every fret up until the 19th.

You need to dress the frets, plain and simple. A fret file does not lie. Low action and a relatively straight neck IS possible provided the frets are properly dressed.

Roman

I would believe so...

But I can't find what ilness to treat. The neck is perfectly level as far as I can tell and beautifully crowned. Some other guitars of mine have far more uneven frets and hardly buzz, maybe just locally. This one buzzes everywhere. I've tried sighting, straightedges, Stewmac Fret Rocker, the LED... I'm stumped.

I wanted a single coil strat, both my other strats have all humbuckers and I really did this assembly (as upposed to just buying a complete guitar) as a step towards trying a refret on one of my older guitars that needs it kinda badly. This doesn't give me much confidence.

Did you retune when you de-tensioned the neck for more relief? The strings will all need tightening back to pitch. If they aren't they might buzz because the string tension is too low.

Basically it's simple physics. A string need space to vibrate, and it needs more space, the further you go from the fret being held down (up to halfway along the string to the bridge). Adding relief will get more space under the string on the nearby frets.

When you say "if I capo at 7 the g-string now the led shows contact at every fret up until the 19th." Do you mean without plucking the string? If so that seems very odd. I can't imagine achieving that without an almost dead flat neck in that region, and the bridge set to low at the same time.

Naturally I retuned. I even use pretty stiff strings at .010 (at least compared to .008s and .009 :D )

And I usually have a pretty good grasp of theory. But this time...

I capo the string to hold it down. I use one hand to, of course, pluck the string and the other to hold the LED against the fret...

What is the string height at the nut? The cape will remove the nut from the equasion, but it may be one of the problems.

As I wrote earlier, the nut is an Earvana, perfectly flush. If I depress the string at the second fret it clears the first by a hair, like .05 mm. There's no buzz on open strings.

I think I'll better take this guitar to a luthier tomorrow... I guess it's almost impossible to diagnose something like this when you don't have the guitar in your hands.

Edited by Hollander
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I'm really interested in this thread because I've had a similar situation on a guitar but it was a little more localized to the lower bass strings and certain frets. Everything checked out fine. Fret crown, fret rocker test, relief etc.

In the end, I chalked it up to the guitar being a little more resonant than my other guitars, leading to the strings vibrating in a wider ellipse as a normal guitar. That's the only explanation I have. I raised the action a little and its fine.

Please post a follow up and share your results with the luthier.

99% of the luthiers in my home town suck and they would just raise the action, arguing with you that the guitar is setup the way you like it. :D

Edited by guitar2005
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The neck is perfectly level as far as I can tell and beautifully crowned.

I think if it were level, all other factors being in the right range, you wouldn't have buzzing frets.

Frets can certainly be properly crowned without being leveled properly first. I would level the frets and recrown them.

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Here is the trick when I see a thread like this. If everything was spot on as you describe, there would be no problem(short of possibly your playing style, but again you say your heavy handed, but not too heavy* meaning we should rule out your playing). Where do we go from there? :D

You should assume there is a problem with your measuring, and start from scratch paying extreamly close attension to how you are testing(be sure you are evaluating the whole fretboard, not just a point down the middle). I would set the neck back to straight(eliminate the relief). Re-evaluate the nut, Re-check your frets for level, Then re-check your action at standard tuning. At that point if all IS correct you have a dead straight neck, proper setting at the nut, and very reasonable action. It will not buzz if that is the case(and again, be sure you are not playing too heavy, nothing will cure buzz if you do). Playing with relief is not a cure for a problem with bad frets, nut or what have you.

Rich

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I've had 2 Stew-Mac "fret rockers" and while the shorter sides like 2" , 3", etc were all dead flat, the 4" sides on both of them were not dead flat.

What is the other "straight-edge" you are using (I assume something at least 12" long, but what exactly is it ? (I mean metal ruler, or precision ground ?)

When using the short ones like the "fret rocker", it can get hard to detect problem frets if the neck is in too much relief. Try to adjust the neck as straight as possible before using those little rockers.

If your very last fret at the body end is too high, that one can be hard to detect with the "fret rocker"

Could be one of those necks that has a hump or dip, or both that just move around when the t-rod is adjusted.

Also sounds a lot like there could be a gradual "ski slope" thing going on at the body end.

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Thanks for all the input!

And yes of course there is a problem, so I must be doing something wrong. I was hoping someone could point a finger at what it could be. It's not so obvious.

Maybe it's my ruler... It appears to be pretty straight but I have no idea if it was precision ground.

And I've tried everything more than once. Except taking a file to it. Seems like a last resort thing to me. And I'd like to know where to file first...

The LED method does appear to not point in the direction of the body end of the fretboard...

I'll put on some new strings tomorrow. See what my old friend the luthier has to say. And if he still has good coffee.

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Hi all,

Actually, I've just solved a similar (but not quite as bad) problem on my Phil Collen Jackson. I got fre buzz from the 12th fret upwards and adding relief to the neck just wasn't sovint the problem. Finally I've tried adding a shim under the neckplate. It's worked a treat.

I used a sliver of credit card at the part of the neck cavity furthest away from the body. This made the neck very slightly concave and so I had to really lower the bridge to compensate. The result is lower ation and no fret buzz. It's a five minute fix and easily undone if need be (i.e. you may need the shim places towards the body or in the centre - trial and error).

Hope it works, good luck.

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Hi all,

Actually, I've just solved a similar (but not quite as bad) problem on my Phil Collen Jackson. I got fre buzz from the 12th fret upwards and adding relief to the neck just wasn't sovint the problem. Finally I've tried adding a shim under the neckplate. It's worked a treat.

I used a sliver of credit card at the part of the neck cavity furthest away from the body. This made the neck very slightly concave and so I had to really lower the bridge to compensate. The result is lower ation and no fret buzz. It's a five minute fix and easily undone if need be (i.e. you may need the shim places towards the body or in the centre - trial and error).

Hope it works, good luck.

You're saying you angled the neck forward and that fixed the problem? Are all other measurements the same I.e. action, relief etc. I find this surprising.

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That's a remarkable story. I'm glad it worked for you!

But I don't get the physics behind it...

What actually changed here? The angle of the neck on the body or the relief of the part of the neck above the joint/creditcard sliver was put under tension? What's the difference between changing the neck body angle and raising or lowering the bridge/saddles?

Actually when I first put this guitar together It had huge action with the bridge and saddles on the floor, they couldn't go lower. There was quite a bit of lacquer in the neck pocket, I filed off a bit of it to change the neck/body angle slightly backwards so I could raise the bridge a tad. I took extreme care to make sure the floor of the pocke stayed straight for the edge up 'til the inward screw holes, so there would be no surplus tension on the neck at that point.

My old friend the luthier said there's nothing wrong with the neck, it just needs a good setup. According to him there's more to that than changing the tension and action. But he won't tell me how to do it. A matter of protecting his trade secrets, he says. He's always complaining he's got too much work? He's really a very cool guy that helped me a lot on different other occasions and built me a fantastic guitar for a very friendly price. Please don't judge him badly for this.

Told him I'd tinker a bit more before I cave. I just want to do this myself.

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Well the first thing I see is that you are just using a ruler and don't know if it is precision ground. Unless you specifically buy a precision ground one, it won't be. Normal home depot straight edges can be pretty darned flat but you will never see a 1 or 2 thousandth dip by eye. But that one or two thousandths can be the difference between a buzz and no buzz.

Since you asked what neck angle does, I would also suggest doing some reading on that. I know which bridges usually need a neck angle and how to figure it out and what it does, but I am not very good at describing it, but it has beed covered on here many times. At least a quick and dirty idea though is picture a tall bridge like a TOM. The action will be very high at the bridge end and normal at the nut. That strings will angle towards the nut which is lower than the bridge. By creating the neck at an angle it basically moves the neck to be pretty close to parallel with the strings.

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My latest guitar had a similar issue -- maple neck with ebony board --it was sold to me as rosewood, but it really looks and feels and sounds more like ebony especially since the neck is quite stiff. In fact, it's so stiff I was unable to get the relief I wanted with just the truss rod. I ended up putting on a heavier set of strings (Power slinkys 11-48), and that pulled the neck into perfection.

I'm not so sure about it being the frets -- his string action is not unusually low, I can't believe the frets would be so far out (on a new factory built neck) that they cause a buzz on every string, all along the neck. I'm not saying that a Mighty Mite will be perfect, but the guitar should be playable, assuming the rest of it is put together properly.

The neck angle idea seems more promising -- half a millimeter or even less will be enough to transform a guitar, especially a bolt on type.

You don't say what kind of guitar you've built, though, and the type of bridge on there is going to have a big effect on this whole equation. Maybe I didn't read the whole thread correctly.

Pictures can help too.

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My latest guitar had a similar issue -- maple neck with ebony board --it was sold to me as rosewood, but it really looks and feels and sounds more like ebony especially since the neck is quite stiff. In fact, it's so stiff I was unable to get the relief I wanted with just the truss rod. I ended up putting on a heavier set of strings (Power slinkys 11-48), and that pulled the neck into perfection.

I'm not so sure about it being the frets -- his string action is not unusually low, I can't believe the frets would be so far out (on a new factory built neck) that they cause a buzz on every string, all along the neck. I'm not saying that a Mighty Mite will be perfect, but the guitar should be playable, assuming the rest of it is put together properly.

The neck angle idea seems more promising -- half a millimeter or even less will be enough to transform a guitar, especially a bolt on type.

You don't say what kind of guitar you've built, though, and the type of bridge on there is going to have a big effect on this whole equation. Maybe I didn't read the whole thread correctly.

Pictures can help too.

There's no problem getting enough relief or none at all or adjusting the action...

Mighty Mite only makes Strats and Teles. But I can imagine their catalog might not be on top of everyones mind... B)

What I have here is a Strat with a two post tremolo bridge (Guitarfetish). Three Single coils, pretty standard.

What can I take pictures of that would clarify this somewhat?

My luthier friend said it's buzzing because the strings are not only vibrating vertically but also circulating to a horizontal (perpendicular to the frets) due to the magnetics of the pickups. I lowered those but it makes no difference.

If there was only one or a couple of frets or strings that buzzed I could get that. But the buzzing along the entire neck is what boggles me. I've set up guitars before and even got problems out of my own acoustic that the shop I bought it from couldn't. Or couldn't be bothered with. It's been back twice and they said I should just have the relief and action higher and not play so hard. I don't think I'll be back there much anymore. I got the buzzes out. but the thing is: these were local and identifiable. Just bad frets that I could level.

I just straightened the neck and took the leveling file to the frets. It took an even bit out of every fret except the highest three, closest to the body. Those were lower, so it seem it has a slight drop off at the top three frets, which should be even better against buzzing. Anyway, I have the frets crowned and pretty again so now I know I can do something like that to a guitar and at least not make it worse. :D :D

The buzz remain, though.

I'm going slightly mad.

I haven't put the new strings on yet, I'll try that tomorrow. Didn't want to waste a set of strings when I don't believe that will help any. Running out of options

Edited by Hollander
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I can't see it being anything with the pickups. On every guitar, when you pluck a string is vibrates in an elliptical pattern. More parallel to the fret board, but some perpendicular to it. Unless you had very low tension on light strings and pretty strong magnets in your pickups, I highly doubt that the pickups are causing that much of an effect. 3 single coils are usually not going to have that strong of a magnetic field to cause buzz like that.

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Thanks ihocky2, I didn't think so. It just didn't feel right. If I play a string with a pick, I mainly push up or downwards. the shape of the pick pushes the string inwards, so there you have the vibrations at at least an angle, not parallel to the fretboard.

I'll get me some better straightedges en try the leveling thing again.

Again, when I try the led method it tells me the strings make contact on just about every fret, no matter where I put the capo. That would mean the relief would be good but the action would be too low, or I'm hitting the strings too hard. But it's not low. And I play pretty hard, but none of my other guitars buzz this much.

I'm going vacationing for a couple of days, so I'll let this simmer for a bit.

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A few frets here or there, and I would say it needs to be leveled better. But with it being all of them my first reaction is to say the action is too low. But you said you have raised the action pretty high and still have the buzzing. So I am pretty well stuck at this point without having it in front of me to tinker with.

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Thanks ihocky2, I didn't think so. It just didn't feel right. If I play a string with a pick, I mainly push up or downwards. the shape of the pick pushes the string inwards, so there you have the vibrations at at least an angle, not parallel to the fretboard.

A string vibrates in three dimensions, not two. I'm pretty sure that no matter what "direction" you pick, the string will carve out the same space.

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I'm assuming you've ruled out the trem bridge as the source of your buzzing (it would buzz even on open strings, at the highest action).

when I try the led method it tells me the strings make contact on just about every fret, no matter where I put the capo.

Meaning....that with the capo in a single position, you get buzzing on every single fret all the way up the neck? If you're measuring correctly, there should be only one or maybe two frets that light up with the tester...that's just the nature of the shape of a vibrating string.

Methinks the LED tester could be fooling you. Remember that all the strings are in contact with the metal bridge...so if you have the probe only touching the low-E and you're testing (for example) the 12th fret, and ANY other string touches the fret you are testing (depending on how you're holding the neck), the LED will light up.

Also be careful that you're not placing the LED's wire on top of the fret (so that the string is buzzing against the LED wire instead of the fret).

In addition to getting a proper precision-ground straightedge, a set of feeler gauges are the only way you'll be able to accurately measure small gaps underneath the straightedge.

Very low action is attainable only for those who pick very lightly. I also have a pretty heavy strumming hand, so when I reach the point of doing all that I can do on the neck, I just jack up the bridge, live with a little fret buzz, and don't look back. :D

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So right!

I use a batterycompartiment out of an old toy, holds 2 AA penlites. Most LEDs work fine on 3 Volts. I attach the - end to the bridge. All strings make contact with the bridge so that's fine. Actually it doesn't make any difference where you make that contact, every string is connected to any other via the bridge. I put the capo on, have the guitar in playing position and pick the string. Then I have the LED's other foot make contact with a fret only, not a string. If the vibrating string makes contact it flashes faintly. If I touch a string it just lights up strong.

If it was only a couple of frets I wouldn't be posting here. But maybe I'm just too heavy handed and expecting too much.

But I've got several other guitars that play lighter. And StewMac is making me crazy with the Guitar Player Repair Guide and those Artist setups:

http://www.stewmac.com/freeinfo/String_act...moussetups.html

I've got a feeler gauge, it's in millimeters, being European and all. Infinitely simpler than the whole inches system. I made an excel file to help me calculate the millimeters from the 13/64" and such.

When I get back I'll try to make some pics and movies and recordings detailing the whole thing. It'll be a week 'cuz tomorrow I'm gone.

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I like that StewMac link with the set-ups. I especially like the Gordon-Smith set-up since it seems to go beyond what I am capable of. Makes me feel like I still have something to learn.

Same here. When I first saw the Gordon Smith, I thought to myself, I have a long way to go...

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